The temptation of the hustle: a meditation

And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" Luke 4:6-8

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of lent, the pastor read Luke 4:6-8 out loud. The passage talks about a young Jesus, before he really did anything. So far in the Bible, he’s had a really interesting birth, was a very smart 12 year old, and then isn’t really heard from for about 18 years. Suddenly he shows up, is baptized, and runs off into the desert to be tested. Jesus is given three tests, and in the second one the Devil shows him all the kingdoms of the world, all the power, all the fame and all the success and essentially says “All this is mine, I can give it to you, if you play by my rules, do what I say, and bend your heart to match my own. All this will be yours”

MTV recently announced that it had chosen a new name for the post-Millennial generation, “the founders”. But based on my experience, another name fits them well. I call them “Generation Hustle” because almost everyone I meet is hustling, they’ve started their own business, their own YouTube channel, their own nonprofit, their own fashion line, their own movement. They will not wait to be chosen, instead they will choose themselves and put in the work to make it happen. They are down for the hustle.

And while my experience tells me that this dedication to the hustle has marked this post-Millennial generation, I know that they aren’t the only ones for whom the hustle is a way of life. You may be one of those people who choose themselves, who work while others sleep for prizes that others will never achieve. You may be one of those who see others’ success and rather than simply stand in awe you think “I can do that. I will do that!”.  If you are, I think this passage is for you. 

At some point, you might look at the world and see that dealing in anger and hate will help you go viral. At some point you might take a look at the people who have achieved what you want and see that their entire life and their entire heart is dedicated to their goal. Everything outside of that goal is sacrificed on the altar of achievement. And in award speeches they are praised for their single-minded focus.

At some point it might seem that those who succeed are the underhanded, the people who play the game of politics for selfish ends. It may seem that the only way not to be a victim in a dog eat dog world is to be a bigger dog. It may seem that the only way to be bigger than those who have gathered a mob is to gather your own mob.

At some point it may appear that you can more easily convince people to join you, if you don’t look at the people on the other side as full human beings with full lives worthy of respect and dignity. But rather it may seem more effective to paint them as one-dimensional demons devoid of logic who simply exist to be defeated.

It may seem that these are the rules of success, and if you follow those rules, and bend your heart to the heart of the entrepreneurial, viral, political, hustling world around you, then all this will be yours.

There is another way.

The Bible says that God is love and if you don’t know love, you don’t know God. It that all the moral and ethical rules come down to this: Love God and love the people around you. In Luke 4:6-8 Jesus looks the personification of selfishness and hate in the eye and rejects those rules. He rejects the idea that this is what he needs to be successful. He rejects the idea that success brought by Evil is real success at all. He chooses God. He chooses love.

I don’t know if this resonates with you. If it does, here are some questions you can consider as you read and pray through the passage in Luke 4.

And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" Luke 4:6-8

  • What would your place of daily hustle (work, school, whatever) look like if everyone chose love?
  • Are there places in your daily hustle that you fear that choosing love puts you at risk? Where do you need bravery?
  • Are there opportunities you may have missed in your daily hustle to proactively choose love?
  • Where are the small places in your daily hustle where you can choose love?

Evil for Evil

Ernesto Quiñonez’s story is not about racism.

Well, that’s not true, Ernesto Quiñonez’s story is about racism. It’s also about bullying, but it’s also about how you react to race, racism, bullying and other evils. Watch the video, it’s shorter than a TED talk, and it’s worth the time.

The Moth Presents Ernesto Quiñonez: Spanish Harlem, 7th Grade – YouTube.

 It’s easy to say “Don’t repay evil for evil,” and, having some distance from Quiñonez’s story, we can easily see where lines were crossed, where evil was repaid with evil. In everyday life, the lines are not so clear, and our temptations to repay evil with evil are subtler.

I’d like to share two quotes with you that may illustrate what I mean.

The first quote is from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talking to Christians who were engaged in the fight against racism.

May I say just a word to those of you who are struggling against this evil. Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate him, or even to pay him back for injustices that he has heaped upon you. Let him know that you are merely seeking justice for him as well as yourself. Let him know that the festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. With this attitude you will be able to keep your struggle on high Christian standards

The second is from Jesus

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

When we are hurt, oppressed and attacked, we are tempted to defeat and humiliate our enemies. We are tempted to consider them less than human, to paint them as misinformed, idiots or malevolent. We are tempted to talk about them this way to people who will agree with us.

We are tempted to hate, but our challenge is to love.

To that effect, here are three suggestions for you to resist the temptation to hate, and embrace the challenge to love

  1. Pray for the person or people you have conflict with. Don’t just pray that they change their antagonistic behavior. Consider them as full human beings, and pray for something unrelated to the present conflict.
  2. Do something genuinely good for the person who you disagree with. Not in a way that is trying to curry favor, but something that is genuinely helpful, even if it is unacknowledged.
  3. Listen to how you and the people around you talk about your “enemies”. Are you using language that implies that they are less human or less moral than you are? Instead of talking about them as bad people, try talking about them as a good people who are currently engaging in bad behavior.

Hate is, unfortunately, cyclical. Whether you do these three things, or you do something else, my hope is that you take some action this week to break that cycle.


On loving those other people

At the time of writing this post. Mitt Romney has conceded and Obama is giving his victory speech. But as I look at CNN’s election results, it looks like the popular vote is going to go 50-50. This means that one out of every two people probably voted the opposite of the way you did, or the way that you would vote.

How many of those people do you know?

How many of those people would you call you friends?

Every four years I get really sad about how divided the United States can get, and how vitriolic we can get against the other. But I also realize that most of my close friends have pretty similar views to my own, and while I may not lean towards the vitriolic, I’m not a shining example of love either.

And at risk of sounding too much like a hippie, love is what it’s all about, particularly if you are a follower of Christ as I profess to be.

In Romans 12, the writer instructs us to not be conformed to the rest of the world, but instead to be transformed. Then he goes on to tell the following

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

It seems to me that if a mark of being transformed by Christ is the ability to love and to bless those who are persecuting you, and if Paul is writing this during a time when persecution involved hungry lions and whips, then what is a political disagreement.

It also seems to me that the “necessity” of hating one’s “enemy”, of considering those who disagree you as misinformed, stupid or malevolent is another way that we are captive to the brokenness of the world.

So here is my hope for myself and my hope for you. May we find ways in which we can love, rejoice and mourn with the approximately 50% of people who voted in a way that we consider inconceivable. Let us honor them above ourselves, bless them when they disagree with us, rejoice in their happiness and share in their grief.

Featured Image Credit:DonkeyHotey

On Being Wrong

Here’s another post from the previous version of my blog. As I watch some of the election votes come in. I think it’s important to revisit it.

This one’s a little old, but here is a very good talk by Kathryn Schulz on being wrong. Here are two of my favorite lines from this talk

The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.

Because, unlike God, we don’t really know what’s going on out there. And unlike all of the other animals, we are obsessed with trying to figure it out.

Take a moment to check out the video below.

The part that I found most insightful, and what I want to blog about today, is the part where Schulz talks about how we react to someone who believes differently from us. Someone who we believe is wrong.

I hope you’ve watched the video already, but in case you haven’t here are the reactions she outlines.

  1. First we think they are misinformed (and as soon as we provide them with the relevant data they will see the light) and when that proves to be untrue,
  2.  we think they are idiots (We’ve shown them the presence of 2+2 and somehow they are coming up with 5) and if somehow we convince ourselves of their intelligence then
  3. we think that they are malevolent, deliberately distorting the facts for their own material or immaterial benefit.

I think she’s right about these reactions. I’ve gone through them myself and I’m going to bet that you have as well. Schulz points out that by sticking to this script we miss the chance to correct mistakes.Read the script closely and you’ll find that it’s all about preserving your own rightness, and thus your own status and your own worth at the expense of the person who disagrees. Embedded in the script is a fantasy of our infallibility, a denial of our own finiteness that we work so hard to preserve that we would deny the value of the other person in order to maintain that illusion.

Earlier this year, I was introduced to the term fundamentalist relational process in the book Becoming Whole and Holy. This term is unconnected to Fundamentalism as a religious movement but instead is a sociological term that describes a family, community or other system that only tolerates a single narrative, or a single truth. Should someone have a point of view that differs from that narrative, that person risks expulsion from the group. The worldview of that family, community, organization or group takes precedence over the relationships between the members of the group. This worldview can be political, philosophical, religious or in any other area, but it is the one place where there can be no compromise, it is the one line across which there can be no love.

I see in these three steps the possibility for fundamentalist processes. When those who believe differently from us even after seeing the same evidence are stupid or malicious, we are a hairs-breadth from saying that this person is unworthy of our love. We are a hairs-breadth away from saying “Thank God I’m not like one of those people.

We are not God. We don’t know all that’s going on out there. Yes there are those who hold to powerful and dangerous incorrect beliefs, and we share with them the same ability to hold powerful and dangerous incorrect beliefs. Thus, if there is nothing else that we can hold in common with those with whom we disagree, we are bound by our common fallibility. That alone should give us pause before we condemn them.

Loving People, Changing the World, one photo at a time?

TED Blog | Restoring humanity after the tsunami: Becci Manson at TEDGlobal 2012.

Becci Manson works as a photo retoucher. Her job involves making models appear prettier, skinnier and to have better skin. In the video embedded above she talks about how she, and her friends were able to use those skills to restore alleviate some of the loss that the survivors of the tsunami in Japan felt.

I don’t know what her faith background is, but I think she’s a great example of what it means to consider “love your neighbor as yourself” one of the two greatest commandments, and in her story I see an approach to loving and serving others that I think Christians should emulate.

First of all, she responds to need with action. She saw that there was a tragedy and she was moved to help even if that help was just another pair of hands with a shovel.

Second, she looked for the ways that she could apply her own background, skills, and giftedness in love for others, even when those ways were small things.

In the Christian world we talk about “calling” a lot. There are lots of us figuring out how we are called. I would like to suggest that even without the clouds opening and the voice from the sky that sounds suspiciously like James Earl Jones, that you are called to respond to the needs you see around you and to see if there is a way you can apply your own background, skills and giftedness in love for others.